Media Gertrude (Winebarger) Mitchell, 75, passed away on September 6, 2023. A native of Abingdon, VA, she had recently relocated to Staunton, VA to be close to her daughter's family, Media Laurie, Steven, and Lily.
Media was a study in contradictions: both outgoing and introverted. She never met a stranger, was gregarious and outgoing. If there was a social event with a group of people laughing uproariously, a closer inspection would find Media in the center of the circle, keeping everyone entertained with her wicked sense of humor. At the same time, she was a voracious reader. When she had a new book in her hands, you knew to leave her alone; the outside world disappeared for her. She would be unplugged from everyone and everything (including meals) until she turned that last page. Fortunately, Media was a fast reader!
Her favorite author was undeniably Stephen King. Owning every title, she set a goal that, upon retirement, she would re-read every book in chronological order. She was especially excited to do that with the Gunslinger series. She wasted no time getting started and proudly marked that off her list. It delighted her to tell people she was his "#1 fan". On the day before her death, her pre-order of Stephen King's latest release arrived. Because Media's eyesight had severely diminished, she and her daughter had planned to read aloud a chapter together each day starting the day of her passing.
Media was born in Abingdon, VA and attended school there through high school. She was proud to be positioned to be Valedictorian of her Senior class at Abingdon High School. Media married her first husband, Archie, before graduating from Abingdon High. Determined to continue her education, she enrolled herself in the military base high school that they moved to. There, she graduated as class Valedictorian.
Media was a woman who was driven and determined. Despite her meager beginnings, she was committed to making something of her life that she could be proud of. Her confidence in herself and willingness to take the road less traveled led to a lifetime of adventures and experiences. From joining the "boys" at the drag strip, not as a girlfriend or wife cheering her man on, but as a competitive driver herself, to entering the male-dominated field of over-the-road truck driving at a time when women "just didn't do that", she proved that grit, intelligence, and a deeply ingrained work ethic could change everything.
In her work life, Media was proud to serve as a telephone operator during the days of all calls being routed through a live operator. One of her favorite stories was of picking up a call asking to be connected to her own home and saying, "Please hold while I connect you, but I'm not there."
Media also worked for Belk as a bridal consultant for several years. She often spoke fondly of a training trip where she got to tour her favorite fine-china and crystal producers, learning about the process and workmanship involved in their handcrafted products.
For many years, Media was known as "the L'eggs Lady'. As a sales rep for Hanes Corporation, she serviced retailers of the popular ladies' hosiery brand during the 80's and 90's. She loved the notoriety of driving around in a big box truck with colorful rows of stockinged legs portrayed on the side. It was on this job that she met her second husband, John.
After many years with Hanes Corporation, she was offered a generous severance package. She decided to use the education fund to become an Over-the-Road truck driver. Explaining the shift from corporate America to trucking, she said, "Why wait to travel when I retire? John and I are going to travel while we can enjoy it. I'll stay home and read and garden when I'm old!"
That's exactly what she proceeded to do. She was very proud to have traveled to 48 of the 50 United States, Canada, and Mexico while driving the "big rig". She specifically routed trip stops certain ways because as Media said: she never met a casino she didn't like.
Special longer trips while driving the 18-wheeler included whale watching in the Pacific Northwest, alligator watching in the Florida Everglades, and exploring Arches National Park and seeing the London Bridge in Utah and Northern Nevada with her daughter and husband. Media was a passionate bird watcher and delighted in reporting the birds she sighted in different parts of the country. She also made it her personal mission to try barbeque from all over the United States to see how it stacked up against her beloved coastal Carolina pit-cooked barbeque with a vinegar sauce. (Note: Nothing ever made the cut!)
A force of nature, herself; Media joyfully took on the CB handle of "Hurricane" while on the truck and did her best to live up to the name. Known for always getting the load there on time (despite several brushes with actual hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, and even once, a volcanic eruption), she joined the ranks of being a Million Miler. She was responsible for driving over a million miles without issue or safety incidents in her career.
The outer banks of North Carolina was where her heart was. When the US Marine Corps transferred her family to Washington, DC, she left behind lifelong friends Betty Ormond and Peggy Jones. Over the years she made repeated family trips to spend time with them and visit her happy place.
Other family trips that she talked of fondly and often were: a tour of England and Scotland with her daughter and husband; a Cajun-food filled trip to New Orleans with husband and daughters #1 and #2, Laurie and Melody; heated cannonball competitions with son-in-law, Steve, and her daughter at their Caribbean house on St. John; a laughter-filled weekend trip up the Blue Ridge Parkway with cousin, Mildred Bradshaw; and, traveling with her daughter during a two-week speaking tour. The pair hit all of the major cities in the deep South, and possibly every Cracker Barrel, too. The trip finally culminated in Memphis, TN with a hilarious tour of Graceland, home of the King himself, Elvis Presley.
In her down time, Media was a community volunteer and politically active. She held several officer positions in the Bristol Junior Chamber of Commerce (JAYCEES), a civic organization. She also was a proud member of the Washington County Democratic Committee.
As a passionate life-long reader, Media loved words. Highly competitive, she was a killer at Scrabble, crosswords, and other word-related games. If you were going to play with her, you better bring your "A" game. Hiding a dictionary up your sleeve was also recommended. Later, when the internet became a 'thing', she discovered online word games and formed a circle of North American and international friends. Those connections quickly transcended mere competition. She often made stops to meet up IRL (in real life) with those she had met through their shared passion for gameplay. One of her final unrealized wishes was to travel to the United Kingdom one more time to meet her dear friend and kindred spirit, Isabel Colegate, in person.
After retirement (and the 'great Stephen King re-read'), Media became very interested in genealogy. Many hours were spent researching family ties and connections. She traced her family lineage to Reverend Charles Cummings, aka: "the Fightin' Parson", considered one of the founders of her hometown, Abingdon, VA. Media was delighted to learn that many people that she always felt an affinity for, like her daughter's dear friend, Darlene Bailey Graham, were actually cousins! Probably, her happiest discovery was finding and bonding with long-lost nephew, Stacey Setliff.
After retirement and a subsequent major heart attack in 2018, Media spent most of her time at home – gardening and reading. (This woman would make a plan and stick to the plan.) As her health further declined, visits and calls from loved ones came less often. Media continued to delight in hilarious calls with her "Loyal little brubber", Howard "Pete" Henry. Her 'unofficial 2nd daughter' and niece, Melody Helton kept her up to date on all the goings-on and was very much loved by Media.
Media was the daughter of Marquis Paul Absher and Ruby Henry, both deceased. She is survived by husband, John L. Mitchell, Jr., her daughter, Media Laurie Baldwin-Hardy, son-in-law, Steven J. Hardy, and great niece, Lily. She is also survived by her first husband and father of her daughter, Archie J. Baldwin and his wife, Peggy.
Media was preceded in death by siblings Dale A. Absher, Delilah Winebarger-Anderson, and Gloria Jean Absher-Setliff. She is survived by siblings, John N. Absher, M. Paulette Winebarger-Bernabe, Howard B. "Pete" Henry, and Robin A. Henry-Tiller.
A celebration of Media's life will be held at Farris Funeral Home in Abingdon, VA on October 27, 2023 from 5 to 7 pm.